Wayne Ellington’s potential return to the Heat remained very much in question on Sunday, with nine other teams expressing legitimate interest in the free agent guard and Miami and Ellington failing to strike a deal in the first 18 hours of free agency.
A league source said Ellington’s return to Miami remains a possibility and conversations are ongoing. But it is by no means a sure thing.
The Heat said publicly and privately in recent weeks that they want to keep Ellington and would like to find a way to make it work. Ellington has said he prefers to remain in Miami.
The Heat called Ellington to express interest in re-signing him shortly after free agency began at midnight Saturday night. But Miami in the past day also has privately expressed concern about the luxury tax, and that has left Ellington’s return in question and Miami at risk of being outbid for his services.
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With the signing of Derrick Jones Jr. to a standard contract on Sunday, the Heat has $119.1 million guaranteed to 11 players. Though Miami – already well above the $102 million salary cap – can surpass the cap to sign Ellington, teams exceeding $123.7 million in salary must pay a luxury tax and the Heat has been reluctant to do that in seasons when it was not a title contender.
The Heat also knows it might need to give its $5.3 million exception to Dwyane Wade if he continues his career, which would push the Heat further into the tax.
If the Heat signs Ellington, it likely would try to get back under the tax before the final day of the regular season next year, when a team’s tax bill comes due. But the Heat’s inability to strike a deal with Ellington at the outset of free agency suggests Miami is concerned about its ability to slash payroll over the next nine months, and Ellington's interest in hearing outside offers.
So a decision on whether to approach or surpass an outside offer to Ellington could come in part at the ownership level and be based in part on the size of those outside offers. The Heat does not have a right to match an offer for Ellington, but Ellington has made clear he would like to return if possible.
The market appears healthy for three-point shooters. Indiana gave Doug McDermott a three-year, $22 million deal and Brooklyn re-signed Joe Harris to a two-year, $16 million contact. Marco Belinelli got two years and $12 million from San Antonio.
ADEBAYO TO PLAY
Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said Bam Adebayo will “play in a majority of the games” when the Heat participates in summer leagues in Sacramento and Las Vegas over the next two weeks.
Miami opens against the Warriors at 9 p.m Monday in Sacramento, on NBA TV.
Adebayo sank 60 of 100 three-pointers in a Heat pre-draft workout last year but was 0 for 7 on threes during the season. Expanding his range will be among several points of emphasis over the next two weeks.
“We want to see him improve in every area,” said Glass, the Heat’s video coordinator who also is involved in player development. “We want to see his leadership and how he’s affecting his other teammates. In terms of on the court, you will see him handle, you will see him screening and rolling like we like him to. You will see him in the post a little bit and hopefully maybe we will stretch him out to three."
Glass said the “game flow” will determine how many jumpers Adebayo takes “but we can draw some plays out of timeouts. It’s free flowing so we will give him options to space to the corner or be down in the box. We will try to develop his all around game.”
▪ As for Jones, Glass said: “We are going to put him in positions to grow and be successful. You will see him on the wing attacking. You will see him handling with an improved three point jumper so hopefully he can see the ball go through the net and go from there.”
▪ With Derrick Walton Jr., Glass said the goal is improving “leadership at the point guard position. His defense has really improved. He’s really committed to that end, become more competitive at that end. He can really shoot it from outside. Derrick will be off the ball a little bit so he can play a little bit of combo guard.”
▪ Glass said “our three guys” – Adebayo, Jones and Walton - “have shined the most” in practices in Sacramento the past few days but also praised former UNLV guard Ike Nwamu, who spent the past two seasons playing for Miami’s G-League team in Sioux Falls, S.D., and said everyone has looked good.
▪ Among the Heat's summer league additions: Shooting guard Rashad Vaughn, the former 17th overall pick by Milwaukee in 2015 who averaged 3.0 points in 139 NBA games.
“ He’s been good here,” Glass said. “He can shoot it, has showed he can defend. I am excited to see him out there and play.”